Dream stays alive for 80 Lexus Melbourne Cup contenders

With 80 horses still in the running for the Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m), the prospective field for the 161st edition of Australia’s most famous race is starting to take shape after second acceptances closed at 12pm (AET) today (Tuesday, 28 September).

Topweight Twilight Payment, who entered quarantine facilities in his native Ireland late last week in preparation for the defence of his Melbourne Cup crown, leads the global charge to Flemington on Tuesday, 2 November alongside local challenger Incentivise, the up-and-coming star who is tipped by many to deliver a first triumph in the race for his trainer Peter Moody.

Incentivise is aiming to claim his second straight Group 1 in the TAB Turnbull Stakes (2000m) this Saturday (2 October) at Flemington, where his opponents could include the horse who currently sets the standard in Australian racing, his fellow second acceptor Verry Elleegant.

Verry Elleegant, who would take her haul of Group 1 wins to 10 with victory in the Turnbull Stakes, is one of nine gallopers trained by Chris Waller still in contention for the Melbourne Cup. Waller’s arsenal includes two-time Group 1 winner Hungry Heart and Ocean Billy, a recent addition to the master horseman’s stable from New Zealand where his seven wins included victory in this year’s Group 1 Auckland Cup, run over the Melbourne Cup distance of 3200m.           

Victoria’s leading trainers Ciaron Maher and David Eustace just hold a numerical advantage over Waller, with 10 stayers remaining in the hunt to register a first win in the Melbourne Cup for the pair. 

Their contenders are led by the reigning Ladbrokes Cox Plate (2040m) champion Sir Dragonet and Explosive Jack, who is hoping to convert his Derby domination into victory in Flemington’s $8 million flagship event. Other notable acceptors from the Maher-Eustace partnership include Persan, who was the first Australian horse home when he finished fifth behind Twilight Payment in last year’s Melbourne Cup; and progressive stayer Grand Promenade, who will attempt to win his way into the field via this Saturday’s Group 3 The Lexus Bart Cummings (2500m).

Despite already holding a Melbourne Cup ticket, Realm of Flowers has also been nominated for The Bart Cummings by Freedman Racing. Anthony Freedman won five Melbourne Cups in conjunction with his brothers but would love nothing more than to add another with his son Sam, and the training team still have three chances with Listed Warrnambool Cup (2350m) winner Le Don De Vie and fellow import Delphi, who was only just defeated by Nonconformist on his last start in the Group 3 MRC Foundation Cup (2000m), both staying in the hunt.      

Another surname synonymous with the Melbourne Cup is Cummings, and Bart’s grandsons James and Edward will hope to write their own chapter in the history of Australia’s great race this year. The pair hold just one entrant each, with James keeping his Australian Oaks (2400m) heroine Colette in the acceptance list whilst Edward will be hopeful his stable star Duais can add the Melbourne Cup to the Queensland Oaks (2200m) she claimed under Hugh Bowman at Eagle Farm in June. 

Of the international entrants, $10 second favourite Spanish Mission – who has been held back to the second shipment by his trainer Andrew Balding – is the most fancied runner according to the bookmakers, whilst Away He Goes (Ismail Mohammed) is also set to make the long journey from England to Australia with a view to becoming the fourth internationally-trained raider in the last five years to win the Melbourne Cup. 

The horse that interrupted the overseas dominance, Vow And Declare, will not feature in this year’s Melbourne Cup after he suffered a tendon injury. However, his trainer Danny O’Brien still has a strong hand as he bids to win the Melbourne Cup for a second time, with Group 1-winning mare Miami Bound and Australian Derby (2400m) runner-up Young Werther both set to stake a claim for a place in the race.

Fellow Flemington trainer Denis Pagan is also eyeing Melbourne Cup glory with his Victoria Derby (2500m) hero Johnny Get Angry, whilst other notable names in the second acceptance list include The Chosen One, who finished fourth in last year’s cup for his co-trainers Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman; and the current third favourite Dawn Patrol, who could deliver an eighth win in the race for his part-owner Lloyd Williams. 

Williams has withdrawn Master Of Reality from the Melbourne Cup, having opted against bringing him out to Australia for a third attempt; and Sonnyboyliston, who had been assigned the joint topweight of 58kg with Twilight Payment, will also not travel Down Under this year with his trainer Johnny Murtagh eyeing a tilt at the title in 12 months’ time.

Third acceptances for the Melbourne Cup will close at 12pm (AET) on Tuesday, 12 October.

For a full list of second acceptances for the Melbourne Cup, please click here

For an updated Order of Entry, please click here